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SC11 (T): User Antennas For Internet Everywhere Via Satellite

Gérard Caille

SEE Midi Pyrenees (retired from Thales), France

Gerard CAILLE born in 1949 in LYON, France


  • Ecole Polytechnique de Paris
  • ENSEEIHT (Electronics & Telecom in Toulouse) Microwave option.

Industrial career

  • 1987:2014: Alcatel Espace, Alcatel Space, Alcatel Alenia Space, Thales Alenia Space (TAS):
  • 1987-1994: design engineer for satellite active antennas, for remote sensing (SAR, rain radar...), telemetry/PDHT, and telecom
  • 1995-98: Active Antennas group manager
  • 1999-2014: TAS responsible for the Advanced Antennas Research, expert for Active Antennas.
  • Retired from Thales in January 2015; now board member of SEE* Midi-Pyrenees.


  • 1996-2001: Expert for SKYBRIDGE project (worldwide internet via LEO satellites), both for satellite antennas, and User terminal ones
  • Crucial contribution to the design of STENTOR & ASAR active antennas
  • Managed the Array Antennas activity within ACE (Antenna Centre of Excellence, 2002-2008)
  • Author of a dozen of approved patents concerning antennas for Space systems, on-ground (e.g. User antenna based on  a Luneberg lens & 2 movable feeds …) & on-board (Combining different TX and RX pattern for active SAR antennas; truncated-conical arrays for PDHT from LEO platform, etc

Presentations in Conferences

  • Tutorial presentations at JINAs (Journées Internationales de Nice sur les Antennes) from 1990 to 2004
  • Responsible for Array Antenna sessions at EuCAP 2006-2007; oral presentations at all EuCAP conferences.

Teaching activities

  • Courses on Space Antennas (especially Active ones) in the 2 engineer schools in Toulouse (1990-2014), and in 3 adults training courses
  • Conferences on ‘internet via satellite’ (2015-2016) at XLIM (Limoges, France) and ENSEEIHT (Toulouse, France).

*SEE: Société de l’Electricité, l’Electronique, des Techniques de l’Information et la Communication.

Nelson J. G. Fonseca

European Space Agency, The Netherlands

Nelson J. G. Fonseca, (Senior Member, IEEE) was born in Ovar, Portugal, in 1979. He received the M.Eng. degree from ENSEEIHT (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Electrotechnique, Electronique, Informatique, Hydraulique et Télécommunications), Toulouse, France, in 2003, the M.Sc. degree from the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Quebec, Canada, also in 2003, and the PhD degree from Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse, France, in 2010, all in electrical engineering.

He worked as an Antenna Engineer successively with the Department of Antenna Studies, Alcatel Alenia Space (now Thales Alenia Space – France), and also with the Antenna Section, French Space Agency (CNES), Toulouse, France, where he completed his PhD degree in parallel of his professional activities. In 2009, he joined the Antenna and Sub-Millimetre Wave Section, European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, Netherlands, as an employee of Moltek Consultants Ltd, Kent, UK. He has authored or co-authored more than 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals, conferences and specialized workshops, including 15 papers in IEEE transactions, two CNES Technical Notes, and one book. He contributed to 17 technical innovations, protected by over 30 patents issued or pending. His research interests cover the telecommunication antennas, beam-formers theory and design, as well as new enabling technologies such as fractals and metamaterials applied to antenna design. Dr Fonseca was a board member of the CNES Network of Experts (CNES’ CCT) on Electromagnetic and Microwave Circuit from 2006 to 2009. He is serving or served as a TPC member in several conferences, including the recent EuCAP 2015. He served or is currently serving as a technical reviewer for several journals, including the IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation (TAP), the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques (TMTT) and the IET Microwaves, Antennas and Propagation. He received several prices including the Best Young Engineer paper award at the 29th ESA Workshop on Antennas in 2007. He was the recipient of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Commendation Certificate recognizing the exceptional performance of a reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation in 2016.


Internet access everywhere is a fundamental need nowadays, and satellite systems play a specific role in all cases where terrestrial networks cannot offer a reliable connectivity. Efficient while low-cost terminals for users connected to satellites are compulsory, and this is finally one of the main condition for the viability of such systems. In the user terminal, its antenna front-end is the most critical sub-system, as in most cases it requires that a directive beam tracks one (or 2) satellite(s) over a very wide field-of-view, because either the user or the satellite is moving or even both simultaneously.

Trading the best solutions, building innovative efficient designs is a stringent challenge for antenna engineers. We will review designs based on electronic or mechanical steering, and hybrid solutions combining the very wide angle capability of mechanisms with a very fast electronic tracking.

Course content

The short course will consist of slides presentations (alternating the 2 teachers), including the following content, and Q&A at the end of each subpart:

1/ Need for satellite systems enabling internet access anywhere in the world:

- where there is no efficient terrestrial network: small isolated, rural areas in most developed countries, and large ones in the 3rd world;

- during long-travels in airplanes, high-speed trains, trucks, camping-cars …

2/ Overview of various satellite systems enabling such ubiquitous internet access:
with few GEO* satellites, tens in MEO*, hundreds to thousands in LEO* ;  present systems and those under-development ;  in L, X, Ku, Ka bands ;  comparing available overall throughput and cost for the users.

3/ Technical challenges and solutions for User antenna front-end’s connecting to such systems; they should combine high performances and low cost as consumer products:

  • Simple but very cheap TX/RX front-end’s for fixed users linked with GEO satellites
  • Requiring to steer/scan their beam over a wide field-of-view for mobile users (on vehicles, aircrafts…); with added difficulty for Ku-band in Europe, needing linear polarisation alignment.
  • Over an even larger angular domain for users connected to MEO or LEO satellites, with fast switching (handover) from one satellite of the constellation to another.

In each case, we will detail the various options for the antenna front-end: mechanical steering, full-electronic scanning, hybrid (mechanical steering over large angles, especially in azimuth, and electronic scanning within smaller angular domains, as in elevation and for fine tracking in both dimensions)

We will present the best state-of-the-art worldwide, with emphasis on innovative (while efficient) antenna solutions:

- developments funded by ESA, and on-going in US and Japan,
- including modulated meta-surfaces, planar antennas by KYMETA, variably-biased liquid crystals,
- addressing also technologies for amplifiers and control devices, part of the antenna front-end.

4/ We will conclude on the main trends, letting place to an open discussion between participants.

*GEO: Geostationary Earth Orbit, MEO: Medium Earth Orbit; LEO Low Earth Orbit.

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